As GOP presidential contenders stump for votes from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina, Google, Facebook and Twitter are in a race of their own — for millions of dollars in political ads.
The tech giants are offering candidates new ways to advertise — Mitt Romney has spots on YouTube and Rick Perry’s Facebook ads target Christian college kids in South Carolina — and hiring political consultants, sponsoring debates and poaching from each other’s ad sales teams to jockey for the top spot in political social media circles.
“This is the Twitter election,” boasted Peter Greenberger, who Twitter recently lured away from Google, where he started the search giant’s political ad sales team in 2007. “We’ll be a core component.”
Not so fast, says Google, the most experienced Web company when it comes to political advertising. Google has expanded its team to work directly with campaigns to come up with ad strategies and every Republican presidential candidate has already bought in, and several have also bought newly refined YouTube ads that target viewers in specific states or cities...
In 2008 and 2010, candidates largely used Google ads to fundraise. Now, in a sign of new sophistication, candidates are using the ads to persuade voters. For example, they’ve begun to run search ads on each other’s names. In Iowa, a Google search for Rick Santorum would bring up a critical ad paid for by Perry’s campaign. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorsed Romney, his campaign bought ads to pop up when voters searched for Christie.
Google also owns YouTube, the Web’s biggest online video network, where candidates frequently post short ad spots and commercials. New for this election, YouTube offers a “TrueView” feature that tracks how long viewers watch a video ad, so campaigns only pay when a viewer watches most of the ad.
Then there’s Facebook, which also has practice when it comes to working with politicians, though its user base was smaller for previous elections. The social networking behemoth allows campaigns to target voters of a specific demographic with specific interests because users volunteer their personal information.